Pre-emption of a Maella Study by the Spanish Government

Mariano Salvador Maella (1739-1819)
Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by the Twenty-four Elders of the Apocalypse, c. 1765
Oil on canvas - 82 x 69.5 cm
Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional
Photo : Patrimonio Nacional

13/12/13 - Acquisition - Spain - Sold at auction for 20,000 euros, a painting by Mariano Salvador Maella was pre-empted by the Spanish government for the Patrimonio Nacional on 17 September 2013 in Madrid at Subastas Segre. The work, representing The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by the Twenty-four Elders of the Apocalypse is probably a preparatory study for the fresco which the artist produced around 1765 for the Palacio Real in Madrid, to decorate the cupola of the Sala de Reliquias, next to the chapel (the date of execution of this fresco is questioned). There is another known study which is smaller and less accomplished than this one where some figures are placed differently, notably the thurifer angel, seen on the left and not the right.
The painter illustrates a passage from the Apocalypse (5, 6-8) : " Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders [...] And when he had taken it [the scroll], the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people." In the middle of the composition, the Mystic Lamb is lying on the Scroll of the Seven Seals, supported by the Tetramorph. The elders are wearing white tunics, as described in the text, in various attitudes of contemplation, adoration or ecstasy, while angels and cherubs surround the scene : in the upper part an angel censes the Lamb, in the lower half another one draws the viewer into the scene by leaning out to him while at the same time pointing to the Lamb. Two cherubs are bearing a sign which in the final composition indicates what the angels in the Apocalypse say out loud : "Dignus Est Agnus/ Accipere Virtutem/ Sapientiam" [1].
A study by the artist for another ceiling of the Palacio Real came up for auction in Paris, showing Hadrian’s Apotheosis [2]. Maella, who was appointed "pintor de cámara" in 1744 then first painter to the king in 1799 - at the same time as Goya - participated in the production of many décors for the royal residences, evolving from the influence of the grand Baroque settings he had admired in Rome, to the Neo-Classicism inspired by Mengs.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, mercredi 11 décembre 2013


[1] Dignus est Agnus qui occisus est accipere Virtutem et Divinitatem et Sapientiam et Fortitudinem et Honorem et Gloriam et Benedictionem in saeculorum saecula". (The slaughtered Lamb is worthy of receiving power, divinity, wisdom, force, honor, glory and benediction.)

[2] Christie’s Paris on 23/6/10.

imprimer Print this article

Previous article in News Items : Two Paintings by Alexandre Roslin for Versailles and Stockholm

Next article in News Items : United Kingdom : a Fundraiser Is Launched for Van Dyck, the One for Stubbs Meets its Goal